When I first started this business I had imagined a wonderful idyll of swishy clothes, hours that fit with the children, fun events, learning by doing and generally being fabulous as a result of helping women find nice things to wear at a difficult time.
With the wonderful gift of hindsight, here are a few myth busters to temper the mumpreneur dream if you are thinking of starting out on your own and are currently enjoying a small fantasy about how it could be……
1) Hours that Fit with the Children.
This generally means working when everyone else is asleep or paying for childcare.
The days that you pass through with a baby that “should” nap, or “should” sleep through so that you can get some work done, rapidly morph in to days when they are at pre-school and will need dropping off, picking up and intense, guilt-laden extra-playing-with in between times. These are followed by school days which mean you get a small slither of time in the middle of the day to crack on, but your evenings and weekends, AND BRAIN, will be full of homework, uniform prep, school admin and general catching up ….You went in to business as a mumpreneur to be able to spend time with the kids so every minute you don’t spend fully present with them will cost you sanity points. That includes supervising play while you check your mails, helping with homework while you talk on the phone and watching telly with them while you work on your laptop. Don’t pretend that this counts as time spent with your children, because you know it isn’t really and lying to yourself only sends you madder.
2) Working for Myself
This generally means employing other people to do the bits you can’t – VAT returns, tax returns, childcare, marketing, social media….You may think you can do all of them, but if you can then it will cost you valuable time that could be spent networking, updating websites, managing stock, or just planning the business. In turn, this will mean spending money with suppliers that turn out not to fit well with your business before you find the ones that are the right price and skill level for you. It is the very lucky mumpreneur that starts her business with a team of people that she can completely trust and afford! Remember, the process of discovering which bits you really can’t do and then finding someone else who you can trust and afford to do them, also costs you sanity points….
3) Having control of my own finances / future
This generally translates as not having a pension, healthcare, or insurance should you fall ill. Very few mumpreneurs can afford to safeguard their own futures while the business is being established. Let’s also not forget the lack of holiday pay, maternity pay, cover on the days when you cant be “in the office” and any kind of job sharing or support from a wider department. You have to find your support at networking and other groups and be ready for the days when you simply can’t earn any money because someone else needs you. The stress of being less profitable than you imagined as a result of needing to put in place these safeguards, and it being ALL about you ALL the time, is also a big sanity points sucker.
4) Learning by Doing
Learning by doing suggests that just by doing something you will eventually become good at it. If the same logic was applied to sports, I would be able to out-run Usain Bolt and out twiddle Beth Tweddle. Neither of these things has happened as a result of jogging once a week and doing the occasional roly poly with my daughter. Learning by doing can mean poor accounting practices, tax penalties, sluggish social media and a second rate website. Always start a business from the premise of playing to your strengths and tested skills, and then outsource everything else. You can pick up experience in the other areas, but don’t pretend that just because the business is “your baby” that you know everything you need to know to nurture, grow and protect it, just by having a go
Being a mumpreneur can be rewarding, challenging, fun and exciting. After lots of pre-children-years in industry with very little autonomy but heaps of responsibility it has been a wild ride to be doing everything from sourcing suppliers to entering awards with only myself to blame whether it goes right or not. I wouldn’t take back a single second of running my own business- I have met some wonderful women, helped some lovely customers and it has indeed mostly been swishy and fabulous.
BUT, if I could go back in time and get a few fellow mumpreneurs a little bit pissed (not hard, most of them are very cheap dates as a result of never getting out) and quiz them as to what a life devoted to building your own business actually means in terms of time, finances, emotions and stress, then I would, and I would listen VERY carefully to what they had to say…..
If after doing that, I still thought I had what it took to run my own business, I would tell myself firmly…… “You’re probably wrong. You probably don’t.”. And then I would do it anyway.